An unknown artist has made a spectacular breakthrough by producing a painting fit for the walls of David Cameron’s Downing Street offices.
Paul Morrison, 27, who uses a garden shed at his west Belfast home as a studio, was commissioned to paint an urban landscape of his home city to mark an international investment conference in the aftermath of the G8 leader meeting in Northern Ireland last summer.
Signed copies of his oil painting have also been sent as a special memento to top business executives who gathered in Belfast to discuss potential future investment.
Morrison, who has yet to stage his first exhibition, said: “Who could ever thought somebody like me would have been chosen to do this for a Prime Minister, especially from the part of the world where I live? It’s scary.”
He used his memory of long, lazy afternoons on his own on the Black Mountain overlooking his housing estate to work on the canvas after being chosen from the shortlist of five.
It took him one and a half weeks to finish the painting, which was commissioned by Invest Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland’s main job creation agency. They organised the conference as part of a follow-up to the G8 at Lough Erne, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, last June.
The original of his unique panoramic view entitled My Belfast has been delivered to the summit host, Mr Cameron.
Morrison, who graduated from the University of Ulster just two years ago - he was awarded an MA in fine art at the time of G8 - has some of his work in public and private collections, but none at an address as prestigious as this.
He shares a studio close to the city centre, but also paints at home, in a garden shed in the Springhill area, close to one of Belfast’s so-called peace walls which separate Catholic and Protestant districts, and where he yearned to achieve recognition.
But he never imagined it would be this early, or on such a scale.
He said: “I often spend time by myself on Black Mountain, just to get away to clear my head. It is really cramped and closed in where I live, and this gives me the space to get away and think about the type of painting I want to create.
“I’m an emerging artist who just wants to establish himself, but I never thought it would work out this way. This just does not happen to people like me. I was really anxious and had some sleepless nights, particularly after I was asked to do the landscape.”
His paintings deal with personal memories of growing up in a city which has been transformed since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement.
He said: “I want to create a visual trap within my work. I try to create paintings that are very much traditional landscapes in style, but also have powerful connotation.
“I create paintings that are pleasing to the eye, again traditional in their appearance, but also have an obvious difference in painting style. I usually paint traditionally up to a point, be it the sky or the foreground, then I try to create a mark by using squares of colour layered upon each other and close together. To me personally, Belfast is full of squares and colours.”
Signed and framed copies have been presented to executives of investing companies who attended the conference, among them Jay Roewe of HBO, Suren Gupta of Allstate, Duncan Niederauer of NYSE Euronext, Bill Rohner, Caterpillar, Pierre Beaudoin, Bombardier, Jeff LaCroix of Seagate and Craig Rinehardt of Terumo.
Morrison added: “I still have not recovered from the shock of being asked to do this. There were many sleepless nights. I always believed you needed to be rich and famous to paint for a Prime Minister. I just didn’t think someone from my background would be considered. I still can’t believe it, and I even begin to explain the relief I felt when I was told they liked the painting. Who knows where I go from here, or what the future holds?
Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, said: “We were delighted to be able to show Paul’s talent as an example of our vibrant and growing creative industries sector.”